Green Deal: EU agrees new law on more sustainable and circular batteries to support EU’s energy transition and competitive industry

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The Commission welcomes the provisional political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council aiming to make all batteries placed on the EU market more sustainable, circular and safe. The agreement builds on the Commission’s proposal from December 2020 and addresses the social, economic and environmental matters related to all types of batteries.

A key achievement under the European Green Deal, the new law brings forward both the circular economy and zero pollution ambitions of the EU by making batteriessustainable throughout their entire lifecycle – from the sourcing of materials to their collection, recycling and repurposing. In the current energy context, the new rules establish an essential framework to foster further development of a competitive sustainable battery industry, which will support Europe’s clean energy transition and independence from fuel imports. Batteries are also a key technology that plays a central role in advancing EU’s climate neutrality by 2050.

New rules for production, recycling and repurposing of batteries

Once the new law enters into force, sustainability requirements on carbon footprint, recycled content and performance and durability will be introduced gradually from 2024 onwards. A more comprehensive regulatory framework on Extended Producer Responsibility will start applying by mid-2025, with higher collection targets being introduced over time. For portable batteries the targets will be 63% in 2027 and 73% in 2030, while for batteries from light means of transport, the target will be 51% in 2028 and 61% in 2031. All collected batteries have to be recycled and high levels of recovery have to be achieved, in particular of valuable materials such as copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead.

This will guarantee that valuable materials are recovered at the end of their useful life and brought back in the economy by adopting stricter targets for recycling efficiency and material recovery over time. Material recovery targets for lithium will be 50% by 2027 and 80% by 2031.

Companies placing batteries on the EU internal market will have to demonstrate that the materials used for their manufacturing were sourced responsibly. This means that social and environmental risks associated with the extraction, processing and trading of the raw materials used for the battery manufacturing will have to be identified and mitigated.

Next steps

The European Parliament and the Council will now formally have to adopt the new Regulation before it can enter into force. The new Regulation will replace the existing Batteries Directive from 2006. This new cradle-to-grave regulatory framework for batteries will require a lot of more detailed rules (secondary legislation) to be adopted from 2024 to 2028 to be fully operational. 

Background

Since 2006, batteries and waste batteries have been regulated at EU level under the Batteries Directive. The Commission proposed to revise this Directive in December 2020  due to new socioeconomic conditions, technological developments, markets, and battery uses.

Demand for batteries is increasing rapidly and is set to increase 14-fold by 2030, and the EU could account for 17% of that demand. This is mostly driven by the electrification of transport. Such exponential growth in demand for batteries will lead to an equivalent increase in demand for raw materials, hence the need to minimise their environmental impact.

In 2017, the Commission launched the European Battery Alliance to build an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive battery value chain in Europe, and ensure supply of batteries needed for decarbonising the transport and energy sectors.

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